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Serial Killing Suspect Asks To Represent Himself In Marin Court

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Joseph Naso (L) during his first court appearance in San Rafael. (CBS)

Joseph Naso (L) during his first court appearance in San Rafael. (CBS)

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SAN RAFAEL (CBS SF) – A Nevada man charged with killing four women whose bodies were found across Northern California between the 1970s and 1990s is asking to represent himself in court.

Joseph Naso is also being investigated in cold cases around the country. Investigators are looking into whether his victims were linked by having matching initials for their first and last names.

In his second Marin County court appearance, Naso told the judge Wednesday morning that he wanted to act as his own lawyer. The 77-year-old was shackled and wearing a red-striped jail outfit as he also asked to review the evidence against him before entering a plea.

“I have given this case a lot of consideration and thought,” Naso told Judge Andrew Sweet. “I’ve been in my cell alone for the past few weeks.”

Judge Sweet took the matter under consideration and planned to issue a decision later in the day.

Naso is suspected of killing Roxene Roggasch in Marin County in 1977, Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian said at the time of his arrest. Roggasch was murdered in the area of White’s Hill near Fairfax.

Investigators believe he also killed Carmen Colon in Contra Costa County in 1978, Berberian said.

The two other victims, killed in Yuba County in 1993 and 1994, are Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tofoya, the district attorney said.

Each of the Naso’s alleged California victims had the same first and last initial. As a result, authorities have been looking into the possibility that he is linked to a series of East Coast killings which followed the same naming pattern. The East Coast crimes are known as the “double initial” killings.

Naso said in court Wednesday morning that acting as his own attorney would ensure that he be represented fairly and ethically.

“I have a lot of experience with proceedings,” he said. “I have represented myself many times, mostly civilly, and prevailed.”

Sweet gave Naso paperwork to fill out, but advised him to consider retaining an attorney.

“Mr. Naso, you are charged with rather serious crimes. You could face the death penalty,” Sweet said. “It’s contrary to your interests to act as your own lawyer.”

Early in the hearing, Naso corrected the judge’s pronunciation of his name, saying it is pronounced “Nay-so.” Later on, there was some back-and-forth as Sweet explained to Naso that he wouldn’t necessarily be able to change his mind if he chose to represent himself.

When Naso asked why, Sweet responded, “It’s obvious you don’t understand the law and I’m not going to explain it to you. Under some circumstances you cannot bring in counsel later.”

Sweet set another hearing for May 5 on whether Naso will be allowed to act as his own lawyer.

A separate hearing is scheduled for May 25 on a media request to unseal documents related to the case.

Berberian said after Wednesday’s hearing that he is not surprised by Naso’s request.

“He has a constitutional right to represent himself,” Berberian said. “It’s a decision he has to make.”

Berberian said he will decide whether to seek the death penalty after the attorney issue has been resolved. He said there has never been a case in Marin County in which a defendant facing the death penalty has represented himself.

Naso is being held in Marin County Jail without bail.

(Copyright 2011 by CBSSan Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

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